Among many other economic trends, 2020 forced many offline businesses to move their operations online. Those that pivoted to e-commerce reaped major benefits, especially during the holiday season, when businesses logged an average 110 percent increase in sales. And overall, U.S. e-commerce sales grew 44 percent by year’s end, topping $861 billion. Without question, there’s never been a better time to do business online.
Exponential growth aside, it can’t be overstated how quickly companies had to adapt and launch digital storefronts, often without the technical expertise or savvy necessary for a smooth transition. Some companies’ biggest challenges were logistical (for example, delivery processes, volume of orders, or identifying relevant metrics) while others were customer-facing, such as the ease of the checkout experience and compelling presentations of available merchandise.
This meant that new online sellers faced a steep learning curve and had to invest a lot of time in mastering the basics. From finding the right platform to processing payments to managing an influx of customer inquiries, business owners had to rebuild their operations from the ground up.
However, as online newbies become veterans, and as consumer spending picks up, how can they take their e-commerce operations to the next level? Below are three key steps that every leader can take to streamline, surprise, and delight.
1. Incorporate Logistics Into the Sales Process
In establishing a digital storefront, simply getting products online can feel like a triumph. But even the best product photos and descriptions aren’t enough. E-commerce behemoth Amazon has cultivated an environment in which customers expect multiple shipping options, delivery-timeframe estimates, and regular updates if that timeframe is delayed. In fact, many shoppers won’t even buy if they don’t know when their purchase will show up.
This means business leaders can’t think of sales and logistics as two separate buckets. Part of the customer experience involves not just presenting best-in-class products at the right price, but also giving customers an active role in shipping and then managing their expectations throughout the entirety of the order.
2. Personalize the Customer Journey
If a business is seeing increased online sales, that means something is working—customers are loving the product and the user experience is at least satisfactory. But customers are increasingly looking for personalization.
Personalization can take many shapes and forms. It could be a marketing email that uses a customer’s name in the subject line, product suggestions based on a customer’s browsing history, or targeted ads based on a customer’s interests. It may seem like an extra step, and perhaps a business can manage just fine without it, but personalization is becoming more important to online shoppers.
Any degree of personalization increases a company’s chances of retaining customers, and by offering these shoppers more of what they want, businesses can boost sales even more.
3. Embrace the Power of Live Chat
Contact information is a hallmark of any business website. When we re-themed Tapestry Girls earlier this year, we made sure to include easy-to-find customer-related support tabs, FAQs, and contact pages. It should always be easy for customers to find your email or phone number in the event of an issue. However, most shoppers are looking for faster, more efficient ways to get help, without composing a message or waiting on hold to speak with a representative. Live chat checks every box.
Customers particularly prefer live chat because of the response speed. Aside from the quickness, live chat is also effective because automated responses can help solve simple inquiries without tying up customer-service staff as representatives can handle multiple chats at once, and customers walk away from these encounters with a higher level of satisfaction.
Even better, live chat aligns with the style of communication most customers use (texting and instant messaging), and it saves businesses the trouble of outsourcing call centers or hiring staff just to man phones. In short, live chat is an effective, modern solution for a time-starved, modern customer.
Once your digital store is up and running, it’s okay to celebrate your mastery of the basics. But take your growth to the next level by exceeding customer expectations at every step of their e-commerce journey.